Movie Review: ‘The Comedian’
Robert De Niro is The Comedian in this outlandish, vulgar, offensive dramedy about an aging 70-something comedian who is in desperate need of a big comeback.
Growing old is hard, but some could argue that when you work in the entertainment industry, it is even harder. This is perhaps what drew De Niro to this role, either that or a paycheck. He plays washed-up stand up comedian, Jackie Burke, who was made famous by playing a cheesy character on a decades-old sitcom that he just can’t seem to outlive.
Jackie gets in hot water after being called out by a heckler at a stand-up gig one night, setup by his longtime manger, Miller (Edie Falco). Burke decides to hit the heckler with a microphone, which lands him in court. As the judge is about to let him off, once he sincerely apologizes, Burke goes into another rant and ends up getting tossed in jail for a month.
After Jackie is released, he meets the heartbroken Harmony Schiltz (Leslie Mann) while doing community service, who was sentenced after assaulting her cheating ex. The two immediately hit it off. What starts out as a father-daughter type kinship, ends up being a kinda creepy romantic relationship. Harmony’s “daddy issues” become more evident after her estranged father, Mac (Harvey Keitel), is introduced. Let’s just say the rest of the movie is more of the same, with Jackie trying to become relevant again, while dealing with Harmony and an unexpected turn of events.
Throughout The Comedian, De Niro is so much better making fun of other people than when he is actually on stage telling jokes, which is one of the few factors that help carry the film.
The other saving grace is the excellent ensemble. Along with Mann and Keitel, there’s also Danny DeVito, as Jackie’s beleaguered brother; Patti LuPone, as the shrewish sister-in-law; and Cloris Leachman, as a Lucille-Ball type being roasted by De Niro. In fact, if a few of these actors were given just a little more screen time, The Comedian might have actually had a chance to achieve notoriety.
While some may feel that there was a strong effort by director Taylor Hackford to mimic Scorsese’s ’80s classic, The King of Comedy, The Comedian just doesn’t quit reach those levels. By the time the credits roll around, it’s painfully obvious that this comedy about comedy just isn’t that funny.
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